Nixon and counter-Nixon

by Colby Cosh

I had an interesting companion on my recent trip to California: Poisoning the Press, Mark Feldstein’s new book about the quarter-century feud between Richard Nixon and columnist Jack Anderson. Anderson lived until 2005, but is now quite forgotten, even though he once had a near-monopoly on investigative political journalism in the United States and has (along with his mentor Drew Pearson) no conceivable rival as the creator of the form.

If scruples were a breakfast cereal, Nixon and Anderson couldn’t have come up with a spoonful between the two of them. Anderson, a pure entrepreneur who syndicated his own work and had no editor, recognized hardly any ethical limits to his professional activity. Could one say that he was not above stealing secret documents, committing blackmail, spreading sexual slurs, perpetrating bribery, and publishing unfounded speculation? That would be like saying that a surgeon is not above cutting people open. Yet Anderson probably did more good than harm until his bundle of instincts and tricks began to fail him in his fifties. To some, the Washington press still seems purblind without him.

Nixon and Anderson were both products of California, and were branded by it. Both came from dirt-poor families who belonged to religious minorities, and who found disillusionment rather than the American dream in the far West. Nixon, a Quaker, was actuated in everything he did by a superego with a terrifying, suffocating grip; he wasn’t personally a god-botherer, but the “fear of God”, an omnipresent God of correction and retribution, is a good metaphor for the dominant element in his psyche. Anderson, by contrast, was an observant Mormon of stiffly upright personal habits who used a network of powerful Saints to help get scoops.

When Nixon, as president, needed to find a job for his lazy nitwit brother Donald, his people chose to lean on Mormon hotel magnate J.W. Marriott. Nixon was soon horrified to learn that Don, whose shady dealings with Howard Hughes had landed Nixon in Pearson’s column long before and arguably cost him the presidency in 1960, had arranged for a face-to-face meeting with Anderson. Thanks to some eleventh-hour spin, Anderson’s article ended up helping to insulate the administration, representing Donald as a freelancing, happy-go-lucky goofball whose brother had washed his hands of him. I reached this point in Feldstein’s book in the lobby of the L.A. Marriott, reading the tale under the watchful eye of old J.W. himself.

The California of today endows its citizens with complacency, optimism, and tolerance; the people I rapped with around the state wouldn’t recognize Nixon, or Anderson, as belonging to their species of humanity. The pair were creatures of a cruel, barren pre-aqueduct California that turned them loose on America like rodents in a sea of cheese. Feldstein’s outstanding book makes their confrontation seem inevitable, almost Shakespearean.

Anderson was the great thorn in the side of the Nixon cause until he blew the Watergate story (despite having it virtually gift-wrapped; he knew several of the burglars, and actually bumped into them at an airport while they were en route to the break-in). One of the more notable features of Poisoning the Press is that it takes the story that Nixon ordered Special Counsel Chuck Colson to plan the assassination of Anderson more seriously than previous Nixonologists have. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, Feldstein points out, confirmed each other’s claims that they had orders from Colson to kill Anderson and that they actually put him under surveillance for the purpose. Liddy is widely seen as an absurd right-wing curio nowadays, but his testimony about the shady stuff he got up to as the leader of Nixon’s “Plumbers” has usually been borne out.

There is no tape or document that confirms Nixon’s knowledge of any plot to kill Anderson, but then, there’s no signed paper that says Hitler ordered the Holocaust. Would Colson have balked at killing a journalist? Today’s Jesus-freak Colson would be the first to admit that the answer was “no”; he’s the guy who wanted to firebomb the Brookings Institution. Could Colson have talked Nixon into giving him tacit approval to do it? Goading Nixon was practically his job description, and his skill at that job shaped American history. A full generation after Watergate, we’re still exploring the outer limits of what John Mitchell called the “White House Horrors”.

Nixon and counter-Nixon

  1. Those who get weepy and claim that Nixon was such a geo-political "genius" always need to be reminded of the whole "White House Horrors" side of things just to keep them in check.

  2. Those who get weepy and claim that Nixon was such a geo-political "genius" always need to be reminded of the whole "White House Horrors" side of things just to keep them in check.

    • I've always been fascinated by Nixon, I'll look for this one…

      I remember reading Hunter Thompson at the time that Nixon's "Enemies List" was first revealed. Hunter was sorely disappointed that he wasn't on it… but he vowed to be "on the next one."

      • Nixon was such a great, truly Shakespearian character — and that's why so many great books and other works of art featuring Nixon have been produced. Robert Coover's The Public Burning, Rick Perlstein's Nixonland, Hunter S. Thompson's screeds like Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail, David Halberstam's The Powers that Be, Oliver Stone's Nixon, the list goes on and on. Arguably the most fascinating and flawed character that America has ever produced.

        • I'll agree with you on the flawed part.

          • BTW I forgot to mention the film Frost/Nixon — Frank Langella's portrayal of Nixon was amazing.

  3. I've always been fascinated by Nixon, I'll look for this one…

    I remember reading Hunter Thompson at the time that Nixon's "Enemies List" was first revealed. Hunter was sorely disappointed that he wasn't on it… but he vowed to be "on the next one."

  4. A few things:

    - If there was in fact a plot to assassinate Anderson, why did he live until 2005?

    - I reached this point in Feldstein's book in the lobby of the L.A. Marriott, reading the tale under the watchful eye of old J.W. himself.

    Could you feel him breathing on you, too?

    - Chuck Colson as a "Jesus freak."

    I guess this is the kind of "tolerance" you "rapped with" while in California, is it?

    - I've read extensively on Nixon. Nothing suggests to me anything resembling a litany of "White House Horrors." In fact, as is often pointed out by commentators of various political stripes, Nixon's antics were often mild in comparison to predecessors like Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt. As I'm sure many here have heard over and over, the difference with Nixon was that he got caught. Oh, and the liberal media hated him. Still do.

    I'm not a huge defender of Nixon. He may well have been far too socially awkward to occupy a position of executive leadership, especially the office of President of the United States. But I think it's still far too easy to bash the guy in a knee-jerk way. I don't think there's anything particularly brave or even insightful about it.

  5. A few things:

    - If there was in fact a plot to assassinate Anderson, why did he live until 2005?

    - I reached this point in Feldstein's book in the lobby of the L.A. Marriott, reading the tale under the watchful eye of old J.W. himself.

    Could you feel him breathing on you, too?

    - Chuck Colson as a "Jesus freak."

    I guess this is the kind of "tolerance" you "rapped with" while in California, is it?

    - I've read extensively on Nixon. Nothing suggests to me anything resembling a litany of "White House Horrors." In fact, as is often pointed out by commentators of various political stripes, Nixon's antics were often mild in comparison to predecessors like Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt. As I'm sure many here have heard over and over, the difference with Nixon was that he got caught. Oh, and the liberal media hated him. Still do.

    I'm not a huge defender of Nixon. He may well have been far too socially awkward to occupy a position of executive leadership, especially the office of President of the United States. But I think it's still far too easy to bash the guy in a knee-jerk way. I don't think there's anything particularly brave or even insightful about it.

    • But I think it's still far too easy to bash the guy in a knee-jerk way. I don't think there's anything particularly brave or even insightful about it.

      But, of course, you haven't read the book so your "thoughts" are based on nothing more than your own preconceptions.

      • My comment was not directed at any one book. And I'm certainly more than willing to be open about what Mr. Feldstein's effort provides us. However, in general, I don't think it takes specific bravery to bash Nixon, or to come up with even more "White House Horrors" to get the usual suspects all excited. And, specifically, it would appear as though this assassination allegation will do nothing but get the usual suspects all excited, despite any apparent lack of real proof that Nixon ordered it — except, of course, Mr. Cosh's reference to the fact that "there's no signed paper that says Hitler ordered the Holocaust." Similarly, evidence of the existence of the plot itself appears to come from talk from two men whom Cosh refers to in the present as an "absurd right-wing curio" and a "Jesus freak." Heck, let's begin retro-impeachment proceedings right now!

        • I don't think anyone is claiming bravery and further, I don't think anyone is doing any gratuitous Nixon-bashing. I haven't read the book either, obviously, but I would not be shocked to find that Nixon had contemplated assassination of an "enemy." It is very much in keeping with what is already known about the man. You're aware of the charges that Christopher Hitchens has made against Nixon and Kissinger I expect. Do you discount those charges – that the US "accidently" killed Salvador Allende, that Nixon and Kissinger scuttled peace talks in Vietnam for political reasons – or do you accept them?

          • I would not be shocked to find that Nixon had contemplated assassination of an "enemy."

            Then I suggest you have not studied the man in any great detail. It's a pretty absurd proposition.

            Any basic knowledge of American history would include numerous examples of American interference in the domestic affairs of other nations, including Iran, as well as political calculations behind military decisions, including bombings that occurred during intern sex scandals. Yet I would never use such examples to suggest that either Eisenhower of Clinton would relish the idea of having critical journalists shot.

          • So your evidence that Nixon would never contemplate assassination of a journalist is your solemn pledge that you would never make such a scurrilous accusation against Eisenhower or Clinton?

            That's a pretty bizarre understanding of cause and effect.

          • No, it's your bizarre understanding of what it is that I actually wrote. You're the one who made the quite remarkable claim that you could see Nixon wanting to assassinate a critical journalist, and you did it by citing incidents that had nothing to do with such personal vindictiveness, and more to do with not so uncommon foreign policy actions.

            In other words, some might accuse you of engaging in a non sequitur. Because a president makes possibly controversial foreign policy decisions, it does not follow that they're more likely to want journalists shot. Furthermore, nothing that I've read about Nixon leads me to believe that he'd be so personally vicious.

            I'll also add that these kinds of accusations from you is basically what I was warning about in the first place. Creating even more hysteria about Nixon isn't exactly the hardest thing to do, is it.

          • A. Nixon was not the president when he worked with Kissinger to sabotage peace talks in Vietnam – prolonging that war by years, killing untold thousands of American soldiers – he was just a candidate for President.

            B. You're free to believe whatever happy horsesh*t you choose to believe. If you choose to believe that Nixon's underlings were plotting an assassination without his knowledge or consent then – by all means – believe it with all your heart.

            C. For my part, I'll continue to hold the same opinion I first expressed, which is that it would not surprise me if Nixon was involved in an assassination plot against a man he perceived as an enemy. That's not an accusation against, or an assertion about, Nixon, it's an opinion about an unproven allegation in full recognition that it's… not proven.

          • Yes, Larry, I find your outlandish accusations against Nixon to be unsourced and unfounded. You're more than welcome to them. It doesn't mean they have any credibility. In fact, I didn't think you were this unthinking in your approach. You've proven me wrong.

          • Just to provide my perspective, I find these kinds of allegations against Nixon to be in the same league as those made against Bush regarding 9/11, against the Clintons regarding Vince Foster, or against Obama regarding communism. They're made by the those who actively match facts with their own view of the world. Again, I didn't think you were like that.

        • Maybe we could start by having a grown-up re-read to you what I wrote. The information about the assassination plot comes from Hunt and Liddy, not Colson and Liddy.

          • Did you not refer to Colson regarding what he was capable of doing? Or is that my lack of "grownup" reading again?

          • Yes, I did. But the sources of information about the assassination plot are Hunt and Liddy, not Colson and Liddy. I can repeat this until you understand.

          • I never said they were your direct sources of information for the plot. Who's in need of a "grown-up re-read" again? lol

            But you're more than welcome to focus on these tangents. I guess it's easier than confronting the more substantive issues raised.

          • Um, you did in fact say that "evidence of the existence of the plot itself appears to come from talk from two men whom Cosh refers to in the present as an 'absurd right-wing curio' [that was Liddy] and a 'Jesus freak' [that was Colson]." If you had read as "extensively" as you boast, you'd already know this was mistaken. Your "substantive issues" also include apparently not understanding how the plot against Anderson could possibly have been interrupted (could it have something to do with Colson, Hunt, and Liddy all going to jail and Nixon resigning the presidency? Nah).

          • You specifically referred to Colson's past "talk" in support of the idea that this plot existed, didn't you? This is all I suggested. Not a big deal, if you ask me. But it's what you decided to focus on, isn't it.

            how the plot against Anderson could possibly have been interrupted (could it have something to do with Colson, Hunt, and Liddy all going to jail and Nixon resigning the presidency? Nah).

            I don't know. You tell us. You're the one who left the matter open in your original post.

            I don't know why some people offer up some rather strong opinions on the Internet, then take it personally when someone dares to offer up a few questions about it.

          • So Colson would have assassinated Anderson if he didn't go to jail? Or could have? Should have? Which is it? Is being a 'Jesus freak' more or less likely to make him do these things? Is the DaVinci code of politics?

    • Dennis, I take your point that Nixon was hardly the first, or last, US President to do Very Bad Things. Nevertheless, I don't think the only difference between Nixon and the others was that Nixon got caught. There are several areas where Nixon crossed certain lines that other Presidents did not cross — e.g., ordering the bugging of the psychiatrist's office of a political enemy? Outright burglary and espionage in the conduct of an election campaign? Waging a secret, undeclared war without any congressional appproval or oversight in which more munitions are dropped on a country (Cambodia) than were dropped in WWII? And that's just for starters. I think both qualitatively and quantitatively speaking, Nixon was pretty much in a league by himself.

      • Well stated Orson. I think comparable things have been done by previous presidents, and subsequent presidents. But Nixon was – as you've said previously – a classical tragic hero. An intensely driven man who was ultimately destroyed by his own demons. Watergate could have been – and should have been – a mere wrinkle in a minor subplot if not for Nixon's stubborn -suicidal – determination to give no ground in what he perceived as an epic battle.

      • "There are several areas where Nixon crossed certain lines that other Presidents did not cross … "

        A Kennedy/Nixon book would be interesting – bookended the 1960s – and they could compare/contrast who was the dodgier president. Nixon did the things you list but Kennedy has ties to mafia, stole 1960 election with assistance from mayor of Chicago, Bay of Pigs (secret invasion), assassination of heads of State …..

        Kennedy gets off lightly because so many people are enamoured with him and his supposed legacy.

        • Another interesting book would be one that discusses the mixing of politics and celebrity.Perhaps bookended by Kennedy and Palin. Kennedy being the first mass-media political success and Palin being a) the culmination of the trend? or b) the breaking point?

        • It is my understanding that Bay of Pigs was foisted on Kennedy. It took place in 1961 after he was in office for only three months so obviously things had started long before that under Eisenhower.

          • " …. started long before that under Eisenhower."

            Indeed but Kennedy was Commander in Chief at the time and Kennedy was war hawk. Kennedy would have been delighted to overthow Castro.

            Also, I don't believe policies/decisions can be foisted on a president. President is decision maker, not lackey.

      • Lyndon Johnson was a notorious wiretapper. Congressional approval for wars has pretty much become an anachronism. Franklin Roosevelt's decades-long abuses of the power of government made Nixon's look like the personal idiosyncrasies they were.

        I think the idea that Nixon was in a league all his own is pretty much myth. He got caught, mainly by people who hated his guts. Before he got caught, he was actually a pretty good president.

        • I think people can argue till the cows come home about whether Nixon was better or worse than this or that president etc. I think, though, that one of the things that made Nixon unique was his thinking and personal motivations behind certain things that he did. You yourself talked about his social awkwardness, and that goes to his well-documented inferiority complex and intense resentment directed against various people whom Nixon perceived to be his tormentors, or people who were unjustly privileged in his view (e.g., "pretty Harvard boys" like JFK). This goes directly to arguably his biggest tragic flaw — he allowed those personal resentments to get in the way of his better judgement, and it actually affected decisions that he made in the Oval Office. E.g., why did he choose to try to cover up his campaign team's involvement in the Watergate break-in? The answer at least partly is that Nixon saw the whole thing in his uniquely personalized and paranoic framework, it was "us" (Nixon's White House) versus "them" (effette Liberals who were out to destroy him, etc.). He completely lost his moral and ethical compass as a result. And this was but one example of many.

          • Again, I think you take examples that, although reflective of a peculiarly unique personality, aren't particularly peculiar in and of themselves. Yes, all presidents are ego-maniacs to one degree or another. They have to be. And, yes, they all lose themselves to one degree or another. I don't think Nixon is unique in this sense.

            I guess what I'm trying to say is that Nixon was as much a victim of circumstance as he was an author of his own demise. And, to support of such a contention, I think it is important to point out that Nixon wasn't as bad as others, but he was caught.

            Was he odd and foolish? Yes. Was he a monster? No. Take away the scandal, which I know is a huge leap, and he'd probably be remembered as a good president, and maybe even be responsible for creating a different kind of conservative legacy; one that wasn't taken up by Reagan.

          • I dunno if I can go with you there. "Take away the murders, and Macbeth would probably be remembered as a pretty good king . . .."

          • Another way to look at it is as follows: you keep coming back to the fact that Nixon was caught, as though that was just some capricious, almost random, happening. Well, WHY did he get caught? He got caught becuase what he was trying to do (cover up the burglary) was incredibly craven and stupid in the circumstances. Nixon had this elevated view of himself as someone who, through his superior wit, intellect, will power and determination, could and would persevere in the midst of overwhelming odds, etc. This was the essence of his internal, personal myth. It was a kind of narcissism, really. I'd argue that the very fact that he even thought that he could pull off that cover-up was proof of his severely flawed character and judgment. I'd argue further that, while people like Lyndon Johnson (to take just one example) might have been as ethically challenged as Nixon, they weren't as delusional — Johnson had a better grip on reality. Note Johnson's famous decision not to run for President in 1968. Why? Because Johnson could see the writing on the wall. Nixon could not.

          • There you go again with exaggerating the significance of certain events. Nixon was guilty of a corruption scandal, not murder. On the other hand, Ted Kennedy was actually involved in the killing of a woman, and that was routinely overlooked by the very same people who obsess over Nixon. Nevertheless, wasn't Kennedy judged for things other than Chappaquiddick? Similarly, can't Nixon be judged for things not specifically related to scandal?

            I don't think Nixon's personal flaws were such that succumbing to political scandal was inevitable. It was a combination of personal flaws, unique circumstances, and an establishment that was literally out to get him. The same cannot be said of other presidents, including Johnson.

          • Dennis, I can empathize with you battling for the complexities of the man, and that there were some serious accomplishments by him and his admin, but….Come on! There were some major flaws in his character (and those around him) that are worthy of discussion 30 odd years later. Nixon was the President of the most powerful nation in the world at a very turbulent time. I know the turbulence is part of your argument, but Nixon was scary in many many ways.

            If Mr. Cosh had included some cheap paragraph somehow tying Nixon to Harper, Conservatives, or blah blah blah, then I would blast away. As I read it, Mr.Cosh is just suggesting an interesting read.

  6. But I think it's still far too easy to bash the guy in a knee-jerk way. I don't think there's anything particularly brave or even insightful about it.

    But, of course, you haven't read the book so your "thoughts" are based on nothing more than your own preconceptions.

  7. Nixon was such a great, truly Shakespearian character — and that's why so many great books and other works of art featuring Nixon have been produced. Robert Coover's The Public Burning, Rick Perlstein's Nixonland, Hunter S. Thompson's screeds like Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail, David Halberstam's The Powers that Be, Oliver Stone's Nixon, the list goes on and on. Arguably the most fascinating and flawed character that America has ever produced.

  8. My comment was not directed at any one book. And I'm certainly more than willing to be open about what Mr. Feldstein's effort provides us. However, in general, I don't think it takes specific bravery to bash Nixon, or to come up with even more "White House Horrors" to get the usual suspects all excited. And, specifically, it would appear as though this assassination allegation will do nothing but get the usual suspects all excited, despite any apparent lack of real proof that Nixon ordered it — except, of course, Mr. Cosh's reference to the fact that "there's no signed paper that says Hitler ordered the Holocaust." Similarly, evidence of the existence of the plot itself appears to come from talk from two men whom Cosh refers to in the present as an "absurd right-wing curio" and a "Jesus freak." Heck, let's begin retro-impeachment proceedings right now!

  9. Dennis, I take your point that Nixon was hardly the first, or last, US President to do Very Bad Things. Nevertheless, I don't think the only difference between Nixon and the others was that Nixon got caught. There are several areas where Nixon crossed certain lines that other Presidents did not cross — e.g., ordering the bugging of the psychiatrist's office of a political enemy? Outright burglary and espionage in the conduct of an election campaign? Waging a secret, undeclared war without any congressional appproval or oversight in which more munitions are dropped on a country (Cambodia) than were dropped in WWII? And that's just for starters. I think both qualitatively and quantitatively speaking, Nixon was pretty much in a league by himself.

  10. Well stated Orson. I think comparable things have been done by previous presidents, and subsequent presidents. But Nixon was – as you've said previously – a classical tragic hero. An intensely driven man who was ultimately destroyed by his own demons. Watergate could have been – and should have been – a mere wrinkle in a minor subplot if not for Nixon's stubborn -suicidal – determination to give no ground in what he perceived as an epic battle.

  11. I don't think anyone is claiming bravery and further, I don't think anyone is doing any gratuitous Nixon-bashing. I haven't read the book either, obviously, but I would not be shocked to find that Nixon had contemplated assassination of an "enemy." It is very much in keeping with what is already known about the man. You're aware of the charges that Christopher Hitchens has made against Nixon and Kissinger I expect. Do you discount those charges – that the US "accidently" killed Salvador Allende, that Nixon and Kissinger scuttled peace talks in Vietnam for political reasons – or do you accept them?

  12. Maybe we could start by having a grown-up re-read to you what I wrote. The information about the assassination plot comes from Hunt and Liddy, not Colson and Liddy.

  13. "There are several areas where Nixon crossed certain lines that other Presidents did not cross … "

    A Kennedy/Nixon book would be interesting – bookended the 1960s – and they could compare/contrast who was the dodgier president. Nixon did the things you list but Kennedy has ties to mafia, stole 1960 election with assistance from mayor of Chicago, Bay of Pigs (secret invasion), assassination of heads of State …..

    Kennedy gets off lightly because so many people are enamoured with him and his supposed legacy.

  14. Did you not refer to Colson regarding what he was capable of doing? Or is that my lack of "grownup" reading again?

  15. Yes, I did. But the sources of information about the assassination plot are Hunt and Liddy, not Colson and Liddy. I can repeat this until you understand.

  16. Lyndon Johnson was a notorious wiretapper. Congressional approval for wars has pretty much become an anachronism. Franklin Roosevelt's decades-long abuses of the power of government made Nixon's look like the personal idiosyncrasies they were.

    I think the idea that Nixon was in a league all his own is pretty much myth. He got caught, mainly by people who hated his guts. Before he got caught, he was actually a pretty good president.

  17. I never said they were your direct sources of information for the plot. Who's in need of a "grown-up re-read" again? lol

    But you're more than welcome to focus on these tangents. I guess it's easier than confronting the more substantive issues raised.

  18. Another interesting book would be one that discusses the mixing of politics and celebrity.Perhaps bookended by Kennedy and Palin. Kennedy being the first mass-media political success and Palin being a) the culmination of the trend? or b) the breaking point?

  19. Um, you did in fact say that "evidence of the existence of the plot itself appears to come from talk from two men whom Cosh refers to in the present as an 'absurd right-wing curio' [that was Liddy] and a 'Jesus freak' [that was Colson]." If you had read as "extensively" as you boast, you'd already know this was mistaken. Your "substantive issues" also include apparently not understanding how the plot against Anderson could possibly have been interrupted (could it have something to do with Colson, Hunt, and Liddy all going to jail and Nixon resigning the presidency? Nah).

  20. I'll agree with you on the flawed part.

  21. You specifically referred to Colson's past "talk" in support of the idea that this plot existed, didn't you? This is all I suggested. Not a big deal, if you ask me. But it's what you decided to focus on, isn't it.

    how the plot against Anderson could possibly have been interrupted (could it have something to do with Colson, Hunt, and Liddy all going to jail and Nixon resigning the presidency? Nah).

    I don't know. You tell us. You're the one who left the matter open in your original post.

    I don't know why some people offer up some rather strong opinions on the Internet, then take it personally when someone dares to offer up a few questions about it.

  22. I would not be shocked to find that Nixon had contemplated assassination of an "enemy."

    Then I suggest you have not studied the man in any great detail. It's a pretty absurd proposition.

    Any basic knowledge of American history would include numerous examples of American interference in the domestic affairs of other nations, including Iran, as well as political calculations behind military decisions, including bombings that occurred during intern sex scandals. Yet I would never use such examples to suggest that either Eisenhower of Clinton would relish the idea of having critical journalists shot.

  23. It is my understanding that Bay of Pigs was foisted on Kennedy. It took place in 1961 after he was in office for only three months so obviously things had started long before that under Eisenhower.

  24. " …. started long before that under Eisenhower."

    Indeed but Kennedy was Commander in Chief at the time and Kennedy was war hawk. Kennedy would have been delighted to overthow Castro.

    Also, I don't believe policies/decisions can be foisted on a president. President is decision maker, not lackey.

  25. So your evidence that Nixon would never contemplate assassination of a journalist is your solemn pledge that you would never make such a scurrilous accusation against Eisenhower or Clinton?

    That's a pretty bizarre understanding of cause and effect.

  26. No, it's your bizarre understanding of what it is that I actually wrote. You're the one who made the quite remarkable claim that you could see Nixon wanting to assassinate a critical journalist, and you did it by citing incidents that had nothing to do with such personal vindictiveness, and more to do with not so uncommon foreign policy actions.

    In other words, some might accuse you of engaging in a non sequitur. Because a president makes possibly controversial foreign policy decisions, it does not follow that they're more likely to want journalists shot. Furthermore, nothing that I've read about Nixon leads me to believe that he'd be so personally vicious.

    I'll also add that these kinds of accusations from you is basically what I was warning about in the first place. Creating even more hysteria about Nixon isn't exactly the hardest thing to do, is it.

  27. BTW I forgot to mention the film Frost/Nixon — Frank Langella's portrayal of Nixon was amazing.

  28. I think people can argue till the cows come home about whether Nixon was better or worse than this or that president etc. I think, though, that one of the things that made Nixon unique was his thinking and personal motivations behind certain things that he did. You yourself talked about his social awkwardness, and that goes to his well-documented inferiority complex and intense resentment directed against various people whom Nixon perceived to be his tormentors, or people who were unjustly privileged in his view (e.g., "pretty Harvard boys" like JFK). This goes directly to arguably his biggest tragic flaw — he allowed those personal resentments to get in the way of his better judgement, and it actually affected decisions that he made in the Oval Office. E.g., why did he choose to try to cover up his campaign team's involvement in the Watergate break-in? The answer at least partly is that Nixon saw the whole thing in his uniquely personalized and paranoic framework, it was "us" (Nixon's White House) versus "them" (effette Liberals who were out to destroy him, etc.). He completely lost his moral and ethical compass as a result. And this was but one example of many.

  29. Again, I think you take examples that, although reflective of a peculiarly unique personality, aren't particularly peculiar in and of themselves. Yes, all presidents are ego-maniacs to one degree or another. They have to be. And, yes, they all lose themselves to one degree or another. I don't think Nixon is unique in this sense.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that Nixon was as much a victim of circumstance as he was an author of his own demise. And, to support of such a contention, I think it is important to point out that Nixon wasn't as bad as others, but he was caught.

    Was he odd and foolish? Yes. Was he a monster? No. Take away the scandal, which I know is a huge leap, and he'd probably be remembered as a good president, and maybe even be responsible for creating a different kind of conservative legacy; one that wasn't taken up by Reagan.

  30. I dunno if I can go with you there. "Take away the murders, and Macbeth would probably be remembered as a pretty good king . . .."

  31. Another way to look at it is as follows: you keep coming back to the fact that Nixon was caught, as though that was just some capricious, almost random, happening. Well, WHY did he get caught? He got caught becuase what he was trying to do (cover up the burglary) was incredibly craven and stupid in the circumstances. Nixon had this elevated view of himself as someone who, through his superior wit, intellect, will power and determination, could and would persevere in the midst of overwhelming odds, etc. This was the essence of his internal, personal myth. It was a kind of narcissism, really. I'd argue that the very fact that he even thought that he could pull off that cover-up was proof of his severely flawed character and judgment. I'd argue further that, while people like Lyndon Johnson (to take just one example) might have been as ethically challenged as Nixon, they weren't as delusional — Johnson had a better grip on reality. Note Johnson's famous decision not to run for President in 1968. Why? Because Johnson could see the writing on the wall. Nixon could not.

  32. There you go again with exaggerating the significance of certain events. Nixon was guilty of a corruption scandal, not murder. On the other hand, Ted Kennedy was actually involved in the killing of a woman, and that was routinely overlooked by the very same people who obsess over Nixon. Nevertheless, wasn't Kennedy judged for things other than Chappaquiddick? Similarly, can't Nixon be judged for things not specifically related to scandal?

    I don't think Nixon's personal flaws were such that succumbing to political scandal was inevitable. It was a combination of personal flaws, unique circumstances, and an establishment that was literally out to get him. The same cannot be said of other presidents, including Johnson.

  33. Dennis, I can empathize with you battling for the complexities of the man, and that there were some serious accomplishments by him and his admin, but….Come on! There were some major flaws in his character (and those around him) that are worthy of discussion 30 odd years later. Nixon was the President of the most powerful nation in the world at a very turbulent time. I know the turbulence is part of your argument, but Nixon was scary in many many ways.

    If Mr. Cosh had included some cheap paragraph somehow tying Nixon to Harper, Conservatives, or blah blah blah, then I would blast away. As I read it, Mr.Cosh is just suggesting an interesting read.

  34. A. Nixon was not the president when he worked with Kissinger to sabotage peace talks in Vietnam – prolonging that war by years, killing untold thousands of American soldiers – he was just a candidate for President.

    B. You're free to believe whatever happy horsesh*t you choose to believe. If you choose to believe that Nixon's underlings were plotting an assassination without his knowledge or consent then – by all means – believe it with all your heart.

    C. For my part, I'll continue to hold the same opinion I first expressed, which is that it would not surprise me if Nixon was involved in an assassination plot against a man he perceived as an enemy. That's not an accusation against, or an assertion about, Nixon, it's an opinion about an unproven allegation in full recognition that it's… not proven.

  35. Yes, Larry, I find your outlandish accusations against Nixon to be unsourced and unfounded. You're more than welcome to them. It doesn't mean they have any credibility. In fact, I didn't think you were this unthinking in your approach. You've proven me wrong.

  36. Just to provide my perspective, I find these kinds of allegations against Nixon to be in the same league as those made against Bush regarding 9/11, against the Clintons regarding Vince Foster, or against Obama regarding communism. They're made by the those who actively match facts with their own view of the world. Again, I didn't think you were like that.

  37. Richard Nixon and Jack Anderson were definitely relics from a different time. You don't have rags-to-riches success stories in politics anymore, like Nixon's, and newspapers would rather receive handouts from press secretaries than pay for somebody to do a little digging, maybe run up cab fares in the process, and end up getting killed. Remember what they say about curiosity killing the cat. Unlike Jack Anderson, who escaped assassination by the CIA, Veronica Guerin ended up getting killed by the IRA in Ireland. That being said, what Nixon did in the Watergate scandal was a panty raid in comparison to the Reagan administration's role in the Iran-Contra affair. Ronald Reagan was clearly "out of the loop," but his vice-president, the first George Bush, wasn't. Yet the only head to roll in the end belonged to Oliver North. Yes, times have changed.

  38. Richard Nixon and Jack Anderson were definitely relics from a different time. You don't have rags-to-riches success stories in politics anymore, like Nixon's, and newspapers would rather receive handouts from press secretaries than pay for somebody to do a little digging, maybe run up cab fares in the process, and end up getting killed. Remember what they say about curiosity killing the cat. Unlike Jack Anderson, who escaped assassination by the CIA, Veronica Guerin ended up getting killed by the IRA in Ireland. That being said, what Nixon did in the Watergate scandal was a panty raid in comparison to the Reagan administration's role in the Iran-Contra affair. Ronald Reagan was clearly "out of the loop," but his vice-president, the first George Bush, wasn't. Yet the only head to roll in the end belonged to Oliver North. Yes, times have changed.

  39. So Colson would have assassinated Anderson if he didn't go to jail? Or could have? Should have? Which is it? Is being a 'Jesus freak' more or less likely to make him do these things? Is the DaVinci code of politics?

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